CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ This flu season, the Garden City Treatment Center has been busier than usual.
One of its owners, Tara Mechrefe Cavanaugh, said they’re seeing 135 patients per day, with 80-85% of those patients presenting flu-like symptoms.
“Compared to last year, we are seeing about 150 patients more per month,” she said. “Obviously, it fluctuates by the day. Some days we see almost 200 patients in a single day.”
Mechrefe Cavanaugh said the center began seeing its first flu cases back in August.
“One of the nurses was telling me one morning that the first eight people they wrote up tested positive for flu,” she said.
Dr. William Creighton, the center’s medical director, tells Eyewitness News that this flu season has been unusual, adding that flu cases are up 20-30% than years past.
“Once November came, it just took off, and through January and February it’s just skyrocketing,” Creighton said.
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Patients who present flu-like symptoms are immediately given a mask, according to Mechrefe Cavanaugh, but she said even those have been “a project” to track down this year.
She said due to global concerns regarding the coronavirus, she’s had difficulties purchasing masks for her patients because most local pharmacies and businesses are sold out.
“We try to go through our medical suppliers, but they’re on backorder because everything is going to China,” she explained.
The Rhode Island Department of Health confirmed the number of flu cases has been higher than in years past, but said the symptoms are less severe.
Last flu season, the department reported more than 1,000 hospitalizations statewide compared to 650 so far this season.
Flu deaths are also down this year in Rhode Island. Last season, health officials reported nearly 40 flu-related deaths while only 11 people have succumbed to it this year.
Creighton credits this year’s vaccine to the drop in deaths and said it’s never too late to receive a flu shot.
“If there’s a 55% efficacy rate of the vaccine, 45% of people who get the vaccine are still going to get the flu, but at least what we’ve been seeing is they are much less sick,” he explained.